Government

Summit Planning Board Seeks More Information Before Making Decision on Gateway I Expansion

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A concept from developer Mark Yaegar proposes expanding the Gateway I zone to the Bouras Building at 25 DeForest Avenue and surrounding developments Credits: bourasproperties.com
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SUMMIT, NJ—A decision on whether or not the Summit Planning Board will recommend expansion of the Gateway I zone in the central business district to the Summit Common Council awaits further input from traffic experts and, likely, additional testimony from residents.

Action on a concept from developer Mark Yeager, that would result in increasing the zone to the Bouras Building at 25 DeForest Avenue and surrounding developments he is considering, will have to wait until the planning board’s November 23 meeting, board members have decided.

Yeager, his attorney, and architect presented the concept, which includes a 30-unit luxury apartment complex to be built around a four-level parking garage on Beechwood Road and Euclid Avenue, an affordable housing complex to be erected on the 21 Euclid Avenue site currently occupied by Flynn’s Garage, and parking in the affected area for a total of 590 vehicles.

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At the beginning of the session, Yeager called a flyer, which he said circulated in the area of the possible expansion prior to the planning board meeting, a “blatant misrepresentation”.

The developer said, contrary to the flyer, the concept did not call for removal of all 18 trees surrounding the development area and, in fact, called for the replacement of some existing non-healthy trees with new, healthy trees and new landscaping.

He also said his firm has invested about $4 million in renovating the aesthetics of the Bouras building to make it more updated and functional.

Yeager noted the plan called for the wrapping of a “high-end condominium” around the proposed parking garage, the provision of more off-street parking to meet the city’s parking deficit in the central business district -- including 120 parking spaces reserved specifically for drivers not coming from the buildings in the concept area -- and “an attractive streetscape which would be an improvement over that currently existing in the area."

He also said the affordable housing component on the Flynn Garage site was meant to add to existing affordable housing adjacent to the garage site.

Dean Marchetto, architect for the concept plan, said the structures in the expanded zone would be “custom designed” to include many architectural elements already existing in multifamily buildings in the area surrounding the site, including the recently-constructed Parmley Place, and the long-existing Turkey Hill Bed and Breakfast.

Marchetto said the proposed 30-unit condominium complex would include a “brick and limestone motif” similar to that on surrounding multi-family structures.

He added there would be a three-story facade and a top-story setback, with many of the exterior design features in the Tudor style of surrounding multi-family buildings.

Additionally, each residential unit would have a first-floor entrance, and there would be individual porches with separate entrances.

The residential complex, he said, would completely hide the parking deck, which, in addition to trees surrounding it, would have a “green wall” screen on one side into which ivy would be planted.

The garage would include 62 spaces for residents and parking for the Bouras Building along with an area on the top level for 120 city public parking spaces. 

Yeager said the public parking spaces could be paid for through a lease arrangement with the city.

Summit city planning consultant Ed Snieckus, in his report on the Gateway I zone, said the zone was originally established to allow for the contextual use of sites there when the zone was originally established “in a manner consistent with the existing character” of the surrounding area while preserving the existing housing in the area.

Snieckus said the Yeager proposal would fulfill the goals of the zone by:

  • Providing for contextual reuse in keeping with the character of the Gateway district, with its borders to serve as a gateway to the central business district via Beechwood Road and Maple Street.
  • Being within five minutes’ walking distance to Springfield Avenue and the Summit Train Station.
  • Not allowing density higher than 7.2 dwelling units on 4.19 acres,
  • Complying with a maximum floor area ratio of 113.5 percent (excluding parking areas).
  • Providing for 20 percent of its residential units to be set aside for affordable housing. The planner said, since final state affordable housing quotas still are being decided by the courts, it was difficult to judge what Summit’s final quota would be. However, planning board chairman Jeffrey Wagenbach said indications are the quota would range from 30 to 200 additional units.

The planner indicated, however, that he would rather see the affordable housing component, due to its location in the concept plan, placed in a “wraparound” to its current zoning district rather than as a direct part of the expanded Gateway I district.

He also said the parking being considered for the proposed deck would help alleviate some of the current projected parking deficit of 197 spaces in the central business district.

Board member David Naidu also expressed a concern that, with the increased traffic from the affordable housing development on Franklin Place, and existing traffic in the concept area, the additional traffic generated by the Yeager complex would make it even more difficult  to drive around the central business district.

Yeager did say, in response to a question from board member James Brinkerhoff, that he might consider deleting the 120 additional parking spaces on the top floor of the proposed condominium complex if the city did not mind the fact that this move would not help improve the business district parking deficit.

When it came time for public comment, John Hopman of 86 Beechwood Road said that, in planning of the expanded zone, the potential negative effect of the massing of the condominium-parking structure on the views from single-family homes further north of the concept area had not been considered.

Hopman also said he feared for the safety of students from the Lincoln-Hubbard School and the middle school, who used the area when walking to and from school, with the addition of almost 600 vehicles to the area.

Resident Eric Mendelsohn noted the residents of the Beechwood Road area had successfully fought expansion of the  K-lot and a multi-tiered parking city parking garage proposed several years ago for the area, and they would continue to fight for the character of their neighborhood.

Citing the Parmley development and other similar developments in the area, he said, “It is time we say ‘no more’.”

Mendelsohn said his area was much more residential than that around surrounding streets, adding, “We are not Summit Avenue,” and “we will not go quietly into the night.”

Robert Steelman, a commercial real estate broker with a business in the central business district, said small merchants in the district were afraid of the loss of business they would suffer during construction if the Yeager proposal went forward.

Yeager attorney Bart Sheehan replied, first of all, many objections came from residents whose homes were not in the area that would be affected should the plan go forward.

Sheehan added, in response to resident charges that notices about the Gateway I expansion proposal had “lacked transparency,” that the concept was not yet a formal proposal and, if the proposal did become formal, all property owners within 200 feet of any proposed development would be properly notified in accordance with state law.

Wagenbach also noted that any action on the concept from the planning board would have to come in a recommendation for a zone change to the council, which would have to hold hearings on any ordinances incorporating any proposed changes.

Additionally, he said, if the zone changed were to be approved, any specific developments would require site plan review, and related public hearings, before the planning board.

Responding to Steelman, Sheehan said he was sure Yeager would make any accommodations necessary when planning the construction schedule to cut down on negative effects on businesses in the area.

The planning board delayed action on any recommendation so it could receive information on traffic effects due to the proposal from the city’s and Yeager’s traffic experts, and allow for any additional public input on the proposal.

 

 

 

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